NEW BETHLEHEM – Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce officials announced last week that the leadership structure for the group’s signature event, the Peanut Butter Festival, will take on a new look this year.

At the chamber’s Jan. 11 meeting in New Bethlehem, members discussed plans to abandon the traditional festival chairperson approach, instead opting to bring the festival back under the chamber board’s oversight.

“Since this is a chamber event, the board of directors needs to be the overseers,” board member and long-time festival co-chairperson Dianna Brothers said following the meeting.

She explained that the event, held each September, had grown too large in recent years for one, two or only a small handful of people to oversee it. Now, with the new plan in place, each of the chamber’s 12 board members will be assigned one aspect of the festival to oversee.

“I think it’s the best answer to our problem,” Brothers said, adding the the idea was first brought to the chamber board in November where it garnered support.

Chamber president and last year’s festival co-chairman Gordon Barrows said he favored the new approach, saying that it provides more even distribution and delegation of duties, taking the full burden off one or two people.

“I think it will work well,” he told the chamber members.

Brothers later explained that under the plan, the existing committees for each aspect of the festival will remain intact under the new leadership. The board members will work with the committees, including committees for various events, entertainment, the parade, wine walk, fireworks, vendors and more.

Brothers noted, however, that the committees are always in need of volunteers to help with both planning and work during the festival itself. She said that the board hopes to begin committee meetings in late February or early March to get everything up and running for the Sept. 14-16 festival.

“We’re excited about it and think that it will work,” she said.

Members at the meeting also expressed hope that the chamber can work with the high school this year to avoid a conflict between the festival and the school’s homecoming football game and dance, which occurred last year and impacted attendance and involvement with the festival.

In other business at last week’s meeting, chamber members took time to look into different options for the chamber’s annual dinner.

After a closed door session, Brothers said the group decided to hold this year’s dinner at the Hawthorn Fire Hall, rather than a local restaurant as it has done for a number of years. She said the main reason is because the chamber’s membership has grown so much in the past few years that they needed more space for the dinner crowd.

“We’re just busting at the seams,” she said. “That gives us more room.”

The dinner, scheduled for Saturday, March 24, will be catered buffet-style by Zack’s of New Bethlehem.

Brothers said the new venue will also give the group additional space for its Chinese auction, awards presentation and new after-event entertainment provided by a DJ.

She said the chamber will soon be asking businesses to donate items toward the Chinese auction, and will soon be seeking nominations for the awards presented to the Citizen of the Year and Business of the Year.

Also looking ahead, the chamber board set the dates for the Community Yard Sales as June 1-2, as well as July 3 for the Independence Day fireworks display.

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